Tag Archives: illustration

Cartoon Museum? Yes!

10 Dec

This past Thursday on a cold, windy day, my family and I decided to get out of town and take a trip east to Columbus, Ohio. It’s only about an hour away from our home in Dayton, so it’s a nice little getaway.

Though it’s always nice to take random road trips, on this one we had a mission: Go to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University.


I get irritated at myself on the little things I miss out on. Here is a museum for cartoonists – and I NEVER went to it until this visit. I mean, a museum dedicated to my industry in my own backyard and – for some reason or another – it’s my first time going there. SMH




The Slip

25 Sep

“I have a terrific idea for a comic!” I say to myself as I’m hopping out of the shower, slipping on the wet tile because I forgot to put a towel down.

I stagger a bit to the bathroom sink trying to keep my balance.  Desperately, I try to locate a pen and a piece of paper – ANY paper – so I can jot my idea down before I forget it or in case it’s lost from amnesia because I did eventually slip and bash my head into the countertop.

In a frenzy I manage to make it to the nearest cupboard, that wasn’t in the bathroom, but close.  I find a pencil, a piece of scrap paper and I write down the idea.


Cellar Another

6 Sep


That’s about how many brain cells you’ll lose after reading this blog post.

Okay, not really.  However, it is close to the alcohol percentage in wine.  What wine?

Let me tell you….


Price Check

6 Nov

One question that I get asked a lot is this:  How much do I charge? That’s a good question because, well, I charge.

The next thing on many of my clients mind is why is it that charge.

Well, I’ll get into it to the best of my ability (which sometimes can be quite lackluster, just to let you know).

I think (at least starting off) one of the more difficult decisions as a freelancer is how much to charge a person/client for your work.  I mean think about it – you COULD, if you wanted, draw anything for any amount.  And actually, that’s what’s great about being a freelancer.  You are the decision maker.

Now, that being said, I’ll explain my approach to pricing.

This does vary as the market adjusts or I may have more ample free-time, however, this is a broad overview of how I generally price my work.  Take it as you will.

First off, as I mentioned, when you first get started freelancing, pricing is difficult.  On one end of the spectrum, you don’t want to scare away a client with a mega-outrageous price tag.  On the other hand, you don’t want to sell yourself short.  The way I started was this:  I didn’t charge a higher rate than many competitors.  Some illustrators may disagree with me on this decision, but when I first started building my portfolio years ago, I had a more discounted rate than what the standard market was so I could build up my credentials.  I think it paid off.  I didn’t sell things for DIRT cheap (like you would find on websites such as Fivver or Odesk) but I had a fair – but lower – price than other illustrators.

Now that I’ve been in the game awhile, this is how I price things.

For one, I can be expensive. I would be doing myself a disservice and other illustrators as well if I sold my work for dirt cheap.  How do I get away for charging so much?  Well, one gets what they pay for.  I’m a professional, provide professional work and have a very strong work ethic.  If someone who hires me enjoys my style and humor, than I believe 100% it’s worth it.  I don’t rip anyone off, but charge what I feel is fair. That being said, what is “fair”? There are guidelines I set for myself.  As my own boss, I get to set the price tag and I go with more of an feeling of what is fair for the client and myself. There are factors involved.  For example, if it’s going to be continuing work (like a weekly comic or monthly greeting card), I will have a lower rate than if I just produced one illustration.  Why?  Well, it’s continuing work.  I would much rather give a great discount for something that is going to continue to bring in business.  If it’s a one-time deal, well, the rate will be higher.

I also look at what the rest of the industry charges.  No, I don’t go directly off the guidelines, but it’s good to know from a negotiation standpoint when a potential client contacts me (a good source to find out what the current market value for things is The Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market).  I can always mention (especially if they think I’m charging too much) that the industry standard is THIS and I’m charging you THIS.  See, you’re getting a good deal!  Often times you’ll run across someone that thinks art is free or shouldn’t cost much, so it’s good ammunition to have for protection.

When I mention I can be expensive, I say that in regards to illustration work IS expensive.  So, it can cost a lot. I’m mindful too that customers have their choice of illustrators.  There are numerous professional illustrators out there (and I do mean professional), so I’m not exceeding them regarding price.  But they will tell you too that they can be expensive.  Depending on who it is, a LOT more expensive.

Another biggie to base rates off of is use.  WHO is going to be seeing my work?  Where is it used?

If, oh – let’s say Pepsi – wanted an ad done, I would probably charge a premium amount.  If it was an ad for a local mom-and-pop shop, it would be much lower.  Both ads might even take the same amount of time to produce, but it’s just the way illustrators work (and if I wasn’t happy with the lower rate for the mom-and-pop I might pass on the project).  And you have to keep in mind that – hopefully – this ad would bring in much more money for the company than they paid me to produce it.

And speaking of time, that’s something else I add into the mix.  Is this going to take a lot of time?  I may think of an hourly rate for something like that (which I am $35 an hour, typically).  Plus, do they want it NOW or in a year.  This can play a role in determining a price.

Also, a HUGE determining factor is the client.  I’ve almost taken work with some clients, and then they prove difficult before I even sharpen my pencil.  If there’s no contract involved and I get a funny feeling about working with someone, I will kindly pass.  Again, I get to make these decisions.  This is more of an instinct.  Difficult clients will always come along, but I have a good judge of character (at least I think) and I don’t want to work with someone who will eat up all my time and frustrate me. With that in mind, if the price is right, well – I might sacrifice a few headaches and do the project anyhow.  Generally though, I work with nothing but good people (currently, all my clients are awesome people!).  That’s my standard.  And it makes for a much more brighter day.

Pricing is something any freelancer has to get used to because you WILL get asked, “How much do you charge?” Some good advice is, if you feel good about the amount, go with it.  If you make it too small of a number, you’ll be miserable working on that project.  If you go too high, really make sure it is a fair amount.  Or, if it’s a project you really don’t want to do, you can raise the price to an outrageous rate thinking that this will keep them from hiring you.  And if – surprise! – they accept that rate, well – it might be worth doing.  That might pay for a lot of Advil for the headaches.

Just don’t sell yourself short.  Sure, I’ve done FREE things for people as gifts and such, but never work for exposure.

And negotiating, in my eyes, is okay.  Again, just feel good about it at the end. Sometimes, I actually draw for fun.  An example of that is my new blog, Drawing Around Dayton.  I draw different people and places – but I don’t charge a dime for doing this.  Also, there might be an occasional illustrations to promote yourself (like doing a guest comic or something for someone) or maybe charity work.   Anyhow, it’s your decision.  Just know that you have to pay the bills, so eventually, you WILL have to have paying clients (if you want to stay a freelancer).

Every so-often there are times I’ll offer a big website or social media page use of a comic.  In return, they link my work and it gets a lot of attention.  This is different than exposure.  I consider this advertising.  Exposure is consider a lot of people will SEE your work, but won’t take action – as in contacting you.  Comics can work as ads, but just be careful in doing this and make sure they follow your guidelines with it.  I’ve had celebrities and other giant social media pages (I won’t name names here) share my work without a bit of acknowledgement.  Use your own judgement on this, but I’ve gotten paying clients off of my “ads”.

That pretty much sums up my illustration pay scale.

Areas I’m NOT going to get into are when someone uses completed work or licenses out a cartoon.  This post is regarding work that hasn’t been completed yet and clients.  If there’s already comics that are done and want to be used, I have that happen regularly, and that’s a different topic.

If you’re an illustrator, I hope this helps!  If you’re not an illustrator, well, I hope you now know a bit more of how we (or I) operate.

There may be sticker shock and more, but I believe that illustrations and cartoons can convey a message like no other medium and depending on what the project is, can often earn back well more than the amount spent on the drawing. Illustrators – just be bold, brave and don’t worry about saying a number to someone who asks, “How much do you charge for that?”  Say a number…and leave it at that.  Don’t tip-toe around it.   If they don’t like the amount, maybe negotiate if it’s worth it.  If not, then kindly pass.  There’s no harm in that.  I’ve yet to have someone call me jerk for not accepting a job.

So, go ahead and ask me how much I charge.  I’ve got an answer (hopefully).

17 Caricatures Project

12 Oct

One piece of advice that I can give any cartoonist is this:  Get away from your comfort zone as much as possible!  Seriously, I was in a cesspool of mediocre work of mine for years until I learned this.  You can’t just stay stagnant.  Trying new things – whether you like it or not – helps.  Even learning to paint, use Photoshop, drawing with crayons, etc. is great to develop your own style.  The more you know in general, even if it’s stuff you’ll never use (like math) makes for a better artist.

That being said, I used to be anti-caricature.

I didn’t enjoy doing them, I didn’t think I was good at them and so – I basically passed on almost all projects that included them.

Recently though (this past year) I’ve started created them more and more.  And I’ve had several clients hire me to do them.  The results?  Well, happy clients.  I discovered people don’t hate them and actually, they can be quite a bit of fun to do.

I’m not a Tom Richmond when it comes to OUTSTANDING caricature.  I compare my work more along the lines of The Simpsons.  You know how when that cartoon series gets a guest star on, they look ‘Simpson-ish’, but yet still distinguishable of that person?  That’s more of how I would describe my caricature work.  Much simpler and cartoon-like.

Anyhow, as long as my clients are happy –  I’m happy.  And so far, everyone that has hired me to do my particular style of caricatures really have enjoyed them.  I’m pleased with the work as well.  Yes, I strive to be more of a Tom (Richmond, that is), but also think there’s something to the simplicity of my work that is great for certain projects.

I thought I’d share a recent project I drew for a printing company based out of Norway.

They wanted me to draw their employees – seventeen of them – to be used as wall art.  The work is going to be enlarged to life-size via a Vector file.  Basically, the main contact person sent me 17 photos of the various employees.   No, they weren’t all together, so my job was to put them all in one image and make it work.

He (the contact) gave me some great insight on who was short, who was tall, who did what and so-forth.  I also included some of the materials that they used on a regular basis (printing stuff, computers, etc).  The goal:  Caricatures of their workplace.  For now, just a black & white image.

I love challenging work and so I was anxious to tackle this job.  I thought, in the process, I would document it so I could explain how I went about doing it all.

The first step was printing out all the separate images of the employees.  In respect to the client, I won’t show you their actual photos.  At any rate, I printed those out in black & white (since that was all I was doing) and also printed out various images of their workspace.  Yes, I had a pile of papers to contend with.

I then took his visual advice of who was taller/shorter and worked that part into the image.  So, basically I drew just outlines of where images would go on the paper so I could fit all seventeen people in there.


Next was putting the actual people in here as a rough sketch.


When I do a rough sketch, they are VERY rough.

I added a lot of elements like an old printing press, printers, etc.  When this above rough was done, I sent it to the client.  He wanted it more modern and less crowded, so I removed several items.


I sent off the above sketch, and the clients wanted a few things removed and changed.  I made the changes and came up with this final sketch (below).


They were happy with it, so then the inking began.



After inking the entire thing, I scanned it into the computer, cleaned it up and added several black areas that I felt would enhance it.

And this was the final result.

Johan A - Z FINAL

Another point I want to make is ALWAYS take any kind of adjustments, reworks, etc. from clients as a complement.  Sometimes clients think they’re annoying me when asking to make changes.  I like when they ask me to because that way I know it becomes perfect.  I offer my own insight as well on what I think works, and if they suggest something I don’t think is good to do, I’ll mention it to them.  At any rate, it makes for a happy customer at the end with patience and working well with the person who commissioned the work.

So, this was my big seventeen caricature project.

I had a great time working on this and glad again that I learned awhile back to get out of my comfort zone of just doing things I wanted.  A few years ago, I would have never tackled something like this.

The only comfort zone you should stick with when cartooning is your stool.  If it’s not comfortable, get a new one.  The whole idea is to spend as much time at the drawing table as possible, right?  Happy Hiney = Happy Hand Drawings